The mayor of a Polish town joined Poland's chief rabbi Tuesday in efforts to clean gravestones at a Jewish cemetery that vandals had covered with Nazi symbols.
Rabbi Michael Schudrich said that he and Tadeusz Wrona, mayor of the southern city of Czestochowa, joined about 20 Polish art students who spent a couple of hours scrubbing black paint off some of 100 gravestones at the city's Jewish cemetery.
Police on Sunday discovered the vandalism, which included the letters SS, swastikas, and the slogan "Jews Out" written in German. They are still searching for the culprits.
Schudrich praised the mayor and the students' efforts as a show of support for Poland's Jewish community, and for tolerance.
"The fact is, there is anti-Semitism everywhere. But what is also important is the reaction of the rest of society," Schudrich said. "Too often the rest of society tolerates these things. But in this case, the mayor and the young people didn't sit at home and wait for someone else to come clean it up. They came out and made a physical - not just verbal - reaction."
The group donned gloves and used strong chemicals to remove the oil-based paint. Due to the difficulty of removing the paint, and the risk of damaging inscriptions with the chemical, the efforts would have to be continued by professional cleaners, Schudrich said.
Poland was home to about 3.5 million Jews - Europe's largest Jewish community - until World War II, when most were killed by Nazi Germany. Today there are an estimated 30,000 Jews living in this predominantly Catholic country.
Czestochowa is home to Poland's holiest Roman Catholic site, the shrine of Jasna Gora.